Perhaps, a writing group?

Posted: February 12, 2012 in Fiction, Gaming, Mantic
Tags: , , ,

Greetings.

A few weeks back I posted on how writing groups are a vital tool in the formation of one’s abilities as a writer. So I’ve been thinking, maybe we’ll do something along those lines here. Are there people among the readers of this blog, occasional or regular, who would like to put up short pieces of fiction, (no longer than 4000 words) for discussion by others? What do you think?

As a test for this, here’s a story by a nice man called Jonathan Peace. He, like I, is writing material for Mantic games. He’s got the writing bug really badly, and seems to be making his way just fine. He’s doing scripts, and has a self-published a book called The Magpie’s Lament.

This also might be very interesting for  Mantic fans. This is a Warpath universe story, and it might well appear on the Mantic website eventually. Both Jonathan and I are involved deeply in defining Mantic’s wargames worlds  (I’ll be spending the tail end of February writing the Kings of War background) and by reading this story, and commenting, you miniature wargamers out there can get an insight into, and get involved in, the creation of a new fantasy and SF property.

Hadors Promise

My comments on the story are below.

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Comments
  1. guyhaley says:

    Hi Jonathan, I’ve looked at the story. II have to say, it’s pretty good, well-suited to promoting the universe. It is a little bit derivative, especially of certain modern SF TV shows, but then wargaming universes are by their very nature that way, and for very good reasons. It’s up to writers playing in a mixed-IP sandpit to bring all those disparate, sometimes contradictory ideas that make up games background to life in traditional narrative, and this does. It is, to my mind, a lot better than the bits of the Kings of War novel I read, so well done (he says entirely patronisingly. Sheesh).

    Formatting

    It is always best to present work as double spaced. It’s easier to read and is usually standard for submissions.

    If you could also send me anything in future as a Word or Open Office doc, then I can append comments and do a light edit for minor errors and typos – I’m not into rewriting other people’s work to make it like mine, and I don’t have time, if you’re worried! You’ll be able to see exactly what I have done then.

    Apostrophes

    I don’t know if you struggle with these or if it’s mainly typos I’m seeing. Apologies if this is condescending, but if you want a really simple explanation of when and when not to use apostrophes, I will oblige. Loads of people get it wrong these days. Even big shop chains, and it annoys the hell out of me.

    “Hadors promise” – This is a ship’s name, you can get away without apostrophes in names, but strictly speaking it should be “Hador’s Promise”.

    “Customers hastily got out of the troopers way” – Should be “troopers’ way”

    “It’s back doors zipped open and another Section of Marauder Grunts dropped out.” – Should be “Its back doors.”

    “Nothings changed.” – Should be “Nothing’s changed.”

    Overuse of descriptive words

    There is a terrible disease of empurplage in spin-off fiction, prose where every noun is guarded by a train of adjectives, and every verb flanked by a battalion of adverbs. I’m on shaky ground here maybe, as it’s debateable whether it really is bad writing, or just a matter of taste. I think descriptives are more effective when deployed sparingly. Consider these two passages from the story:

    “The brute of a miner swung a meaty punch” Might not this be better as “the miner swung a punch”?

    And:

    “A low murmur of voices hung beneath the repeating broadcast, occaisonally broken by a gruff shout or the very rare bark of laughter. The Marauders Skye had seen earlier were clustered in the far shadows, grunting in their own language and punching each other to make a point.”

    To:

    “A murmur of voices hung beneath the broadcast, occasionally broken by a shout or bark of laughter. The Marauders Skye had seen earlier clustered in the shadows, grunting aggressively in their own language.”

    You’ve also got to think about repetition, “murmur” implies “low voices” so you certainly don’t need “low” and even “voices” could be trimmed, although in this case, it’s useful as it lets us know there’s a crowd. As a further example, elsewhere you say “young girl”. “Girl” only really needs “young” if she’s really young. In Skye’s case, “young woman” might be better.

    Neither passage is bad on its own, but there’s low-level over-embroidery going on throughout. I feel a little unfair saying this, as it’s not as much as I see even in some published works, but it’s something worth bearing in mind. Look at it like this (and I mean this in a slightly tongue in cheek way), pick up your average spin-off book, pick up a book by Cormac McCarthy. Ask yourself: Who uses most words? Who is the better writer?

    Miscellaneous errors

    “transition into one rule” – Should be “to one rule”.

    “Fuselage” – Should be “fusillade”

  2. Hi Guy.

    First off let me thank you publicly for the opportunity to work on this little project. Getting feedback as a writer is a double edged sword – we certainly need to get an objective view of the work, but at the same time actually letting go and opening oneself up to criticism is a scary prospect. Having said that, it is an absolute must-do, and eventually the pain goes away. 😉

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, I certainly had a blast writing the piece. Writing a story set in a universe that is still growing is very liberating but also comes with its own unique problems which I’m sure we can explore in a future article. So let me reply to each of your points.

    Formatting: I was told to send my work in single spaced format. Normally I would send a submission double spaced. Having said that, the upcoming Angry Robot Open Call for submissions state to send in single space. It would be easier if the industry just stuck to one format – but a little research into each companies submission policy should be second nature for a hopeful writer, and laziness on such a simple and important fact could spell rejection. I guess what I’m saying is: you’re right.

    **********

    Apostrophes: I think it’s laziness on my part to not have proof read correctly before sending. Having said that (this seems to be my phrase of the day) I do struggle at times knowing if I’ve used it correctly or not. A refresher course could be in order.

    **********

    Overuse of Descriptive Words: Writing a screenplay there should be more white than black. I have several rules to make sure this happens, one of them being: Action (the paragraphs describing what happens) no longer than 4 lines. Another one is character descriptions should be 5 words or less. In prose I tend to ramble on and hammer home the point and this definately needs pulling back. I think it is what weakened the draft of the KOW novel and since then I have gone back and trimmed it down. Less is more.

    The rules for screenwriting have worked so far, so I think it is time to add a few to prose writing.

    **********

    Miscellaneous Errors: Laziness on my part. Bad JP, bad!

    **********

    Taking criticism is one of the hardest lessons a writer – any writer, whatever their level of success – faces. Luckily, while the lessons may sting at times, I can temper the pain knowing that there is a new lesson to incorporate into the days pages.

    Cheers
    JP

  3. redfox4242 says:

    Oooohhhh! Free story!!! Horay! It’s always neat to read these short stories. It is especially cool that this is a Warpath story. I am definitely a fan of the Mantic Games’ universes. Mantic needs to get more cool fluff out there for its games. I bought all their various issues of the Mantic Journal and I read them all. It is to bad that there are not going to be any more issues of the Mantic Journal. I hope they will keep publishing stories in some other way. I don’t have many Warpath models. I think that I just have two marauders that came in my Crazy Christmas grab bag I bought. I do have about fifty painted Warhammer 40k models that could serve as proxies for a Warpath game. The Games Workshop orks would work especially well as marauders. Space Marines are really no good because they have no counter part in Warpath. I have been thinking about possibly buying the Fate of the Forgestar boxed set. Reading that story makes me want to buy it again. However I have so many unpainted models already. I promised my self that I would paint them all before I buy more. I keep breaking that promise. Thanks so much for sharing this free story. I really enjoyed it!

  4. redfox4242 says:

    Hmmmm…. I am starting to think that the purpose of this blog is for writers to talk about writing. I am not a writer at all. I am just a causal reader. I don’t really have anything intelligent or critical to say about the story. I just like to read the stories and I am collecting and painting Mantic miniatures. Anyway I have nothing to contribute as far as enhancing your knowledge of the art of writing. Feel free to ignore me while I just gush sychophantic affirmations in my comments.

    • guyhaley says:

      Mr Redfox4242,

      You can say what you like! That you comment is marvellous. You are wrong when you say this is a blog for writers to talk about writing, it’s for me to publicise my work, talk about things that interest (or annoy) me and for likeminded (or not) folk to reply. Sure, a lot of that will be about writing, but there’s also SF in general, fantasy, films, books and, yes, gaming. That you’re happy to see a free Warpath story is reason enough to comment.

      And as for Mantic miniatures, the great advantage of them is that they are very well-priced, easy to put together and not too hard to paint. Bear that in mind if you are tempted to pick some more up.

  5. Michael says:

    Hi, Guy. I think I’m a little late to this party… well OK, a lot late… and I don’t think either, it’s pretty obvious. But after being directed here from the Mantic site and seeing this post, I couldn’t help but to throw my hat into a long-gone ring on the off chance that a critique group may eventuate. And if it doesn’t hey, offering feedback is something writers always need to practice anyway.

    OK, here we go:
    References:
    I read this story originally on the Mantic site and quite liked it. What hindered my enjoyment of it was the in your face reference throughout most of the piece. Guy said that a new IP benefits from crossbreeding with other IPs, which I’m not too sure I agree with. I think IPs sharing tropes is unavoidable, but I found myself wondering when the next reference would come along rather than enjoying the story for what it was, which is a shame, because it deserves to stand as its own story.

    Redundancies:
    Which could also be called overwriting. Different from the overuse of adjectives, and less noticeable, but I always appreciate sentences which use the least number of words possible to convey their meaning.
    Two examples-
    “Skye did her best to ignore the amplified vox-cast but it was impossible.”
    The ‘But it was impossible’ could arguably be dropped. We know this because the earlier part already told us she failed at ignoring it.
    “It was slowly driving the young girl insane.”
    If she’s a girl we already know she’s young. In addition ‘young’ is subjective to the reader. Someone who seems young to me could seem geriatric to someone in high school.

    Capitalisation:
    This is subjective, it being an SF universe, but I find the capitalisations of words we wouldn’t do today distracting. ‘Marines’, ‘Strider Team’. If I’m in doubt I tend to search the BBC news site, and if they don’t capitalise a word in their reports, I don’t either.

    Adjectives:
    Guy brought this up. To me, the overuse of adjectives or pronouns is subjective. Harry Potter got by fine with them, and in many places they really add a flavour to what they’re describing, but linking more than one to a verb or noun is too much for me. In certain circumstances I think two can be gotten away with, but three just dilutes the meaning they’re trying to convey.

    And because all feedback should includes the positive with the negative…

    I really liked the hint to the background right at the beginning:

    they were as extinct as the planets from which they originated, incorporated into the great expanse of the Great Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere.
    Well, let them try and incorporate me.

    It was short, it was two lines and it told us just what we needed to know to be hooked. Perfect.

    Also, I liked the easy banter between the Hador’s crew

    “You armed?” Browncoat muttered to Grimm.
    “You said no weapons.”
    “You’ve no… since when did you ever listen to anything I ever said. Seriously… no weapons?”

    A nice counterpoint to the mindless violence going on around the,, and gave those character an extra dimension in just three lines of dialogue.

    And that’s me. It’s of course just my opinion, and I’m guilty of it all myself, but I enjoyed the piece and look forward to seeing more of JP’s work.

    • guyhaley says:

      It’s never too late on the internet, where things live forever! Great commment, very in-depth, well written, reasoned and interesting. Thanks for that.

      • Hi Michael and thanks for those encouraging thoughts. I agree with most of your points and in the months since writing that piece, I’ve put the lessons learned into the writing of the first Mantic Games novel The Bloodstone Of Cerillion.

        Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment, and thanks again to Guy for spotlighting one of my stories.

        Cheers
        JP

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